A Toronto doctor is poking fun at himself and other members of the medical profession who have become slaves to technology.

"I hardly ever pass up on an opportunity to make fun of myself or other doctors who rely on technology," said Dr. Nav Persaud of the department of family and community medicine at Toronto's St. Michael’s Hospital.


Do real and fake doctors favour different models of smartphones to watch videos? (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

Persaud's self-deprecating essay, "Technology use by physicians and their impersonators," is in Monday's annual lighthearted holiday issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The essay explores how to scope out whether a doctor is real or not based on how he or she uses online tools like Google that doctors and consumers alike have embraced.

In August, police in South Carolina alleged a man stole a physician's identity and practised medicine unlawfully. A nurse became suspicious when he consulted ask.com when she questioned his treatment plan, police said.

In the article, Persaud joked that had he been a fully qualified physician, the man would have just Googled it.

Persaud's essay includes a tongue-in-cheek list of ways to distinguish real physicians from fakes, such as:

  • Fake doctors subscribe to expensive online resources. Real doctors sign up for a series of free 30-day trials.
  • Fake doctors use online resources to make sure they haven't forgotten a rare condition when diagnosing. Real doctors use them for nearly everything.
  • Fake doctors turn to online resources to look up how drugs interact with other drugs. Real doctors figure the interactions are rare.
  • Fake internal medicine residents keep one eye on a video playing on their BlackBerry when performing a thoracentesis — an invasive procedure to remove excess fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Real doctors watch the video on an iPhone.

"I hope that article will make a few people smile," Persaud said. "While it was meant as a joke, as a piece of satire, it might also make people think about when it is appropriate for doctors to use technology and when it is not."

Other quirky articles in the issue describe treating a heart patient who resembles The Grinch and how the Mayan Doomsday prediction for the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, will affect survival outcomes in clinical trials.

With files from The Associated Press